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Research Abstracts - 2006
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Future Internet Design (FIND) at CSAIL

David D. Clark


The Advanced Network Architecture group has, for several years, been concerned with the question of how a future Internet might be structured. In the recent past, the ANA group was part of a DARPA-funded project called NewArch, which was a multi-site collaboration to consider what an Internet of tomorrow might be if we could design it from scratch today knowing what we now know. This project, while intellectually successful, (see the project final report for a summary of the project), did not result in an actual design for a new Internet. Over the last year, the National Science Foundation has put forward an ambitious research agenda: a challenge to the research community to envision what a global network of 10 or 15 years from now should be, and to propose the research that would get us there. This program will involve research teams from a number of universities, and will have the goal of generating coherent, integrated architectural proposals for a new Internet. The ANA group has been involved in the shaping of this program, and expects to be a participant over the next several years. We are drawing on our work in the NewArch project, as well as our ongoing work in new design principles for the network, to offer some overall framing for this new NSF project.


While the Internet of today, initially conceived over 30 years ago, has been stunningly successful, it also has a number of major limitations. It has persistent security problems, which many years of effort have not mitigated. Its industrial structure raises issues of investment and innovation, and the current plans of the service providers threaten the core architecture that is the basis of its success. It may not be suited for the computing environment of 10 years from now, which will not be PCs and servers but embedded processors, sensors and actuators. Issues such as these suggest that there is value in re-examining the Internet, not to change what it does but how it does it.


The key to the successful redesign of the Internet is not technological innovation, but the realization that the Internet is shaped today by social, economic and policy forces. By recognizing this reality and responding to it, we can increase the utility and relevance of a future Internet, and improve the chances that our enhancements will be adapted. But most technologists are not trained to model these forces, or to design systems that respond to them. Our work thus begins with a multi-discipline conversation about design in a social space, with the goal of finding suitable design principles. It turns out that many parts of the Internet have been designed with features that respond to these issues, but the process of design has been intuitive, and often times both the goal and the response are not explicitly articulated. As a part of our work, we are attempting to develop explicit design tools to shape the economic and social experience on the Internet.


With one-year funding from NSF to start the project , we have made a study of social design principles, we have collected and summarized requirements for a future Internet, with an emphasis on security, manageability and economic viability, we have collected an initial catalog of new design approaches in these areas, and we have prepared and presented a number of talks for NSF as part of the launch of their new initiative, which is called Future Internet Design, or FIND. We have also participated in the development of a plan for a major NSF program to develop and deploy an experimental infrastructure to allow the testing and deployment of the results from the FIND research, a program called GENI.

This project is just starting, and written material is still in the preparation stage. Anyone interested in the project is encouraged to contact us for further information.

Research Support

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation, and by the industrial partners of the MIT Communications Futures Program.

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